Nikolai wrote:I read the Introduction on the pdf. I'm not sure I would find the book very interesting. My own view is that all the world religions are alike, in that they are different ways of expressing a truth which in itself is indescribable. I also consider all philosophy, science and art as attempts at the same thing. Anyone who has thought deeply about epistemology, the self, agency, time and space would notice how seemingly disparate intellectual paths converge. I therefore make no ultimate distinction between religion and any other human activity - I wouldn't therefore be particular interested in the thesis that not all cultures have religion.
I would be interested though in what you think are the links between this book and Straw Dogs.
John Gray talks about how many of the modern western concepts about human beings and society are derived from Christian ideas. Balagangadhara takes this theme and expands upon it much further. Here is what he says:
The kind of questions that Europe/West asks about human beings (especially in fields like psychology and philosophy) don't make sense to anyone who is not born within the framework of semitic religion (Christian, Muslim, or Jewish cultural background). All its claims about human beings, that human beings have rights, the notion of personhood, about the nature of state, the nature of law, etc are "secularized" versions of Christian theologies (by secularized I mean they are theological ideas dressed up in a neutral or scientific garb). They don't make sense to people like Chinese, Japanese, Indians who don't have these religions. In other words, the questions of Europe about human beings are not scientific questions, but theological questions.
John Gray himself addresses these issues in his books when he talks about secular humanists' notion of progress and how it comes from the Christian notion of providence. Pagans didn't perceive humans as progressing towards some goal. Another example: His straw dogs directly points to the fact that Greeks and Indians don't conceive of human beings as "persons".
Balagangadhara's book is revolutionary in the sense that it rewrites the history of European/Western culture. The story and history of Western culture is the story and history of Western Christianity. He does not merely make the claim that Christianity influenced the Western culture (everyone knows that, it's been discussed to death). The claim is that the history and story of the 'West' is the constant 'secularization' of Christian theological concepts. In this context, secularization refers to a process in which religious doctrines become increasingly more 'formalised'; in which they cast off their explicitly christian features and spreads in society in a 'neutral form'. The basic conceptual structure of these doctrines are retained, but dressed up in an alterable secular garb. The modern, secular institutions and ideas of Europe are still very much rooted in Biblical theology. This theology has influenced how the "West" has viewed, experienced, and described and continue to describe other cultures.
If his theory is right, it represents a paradigm shift in the social sciences and cultural studies. We will have to discard most if not all of our current theories about human beings, societies, and cultures